Base U.S. withdrawal on Iraq milestones
U.S. officials and Iraq leaders are suggesting that American troop levels be reduced during the months ahead.
PRESSURED by growing opposition to the war in Iraq, the Bush administration is beginning to suggest a reduction in troop levels in the coming year. Iraq's political factions also are calling for the same movement, but most agree that a premature withdrawal of foreign troops could be disastrous. New approaches are needed to reach the goal of a secure Iraq that American troops can leave within the next year.
When Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., called last week for a redeployment of U.S. troops outside Iraq's perimeters, he cited a poll conducted by the Iraq Defense Ministry and reported by the British media that 82 percent of Iraqis are "strongly opposed" to the presence of foreign troops in their country. Less than 1 percent said U.S.-led troops had improved security.
About 100 Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders announced this week that they had agreed on a statement that "demands a withdrawal of foreign troops on a specified timetable, dependent on an immediate national program for rebuilding the security forces."
Importantly, the "specified timetable" contains no dates so is consistent with U.S. policy that troop levels be adjusted according to milestones, one of which is the Dec. 15 election. Pentagon officials have said they will judge how to modify the troop presence after the election.
The Washington Post reported that the Defense Department is studying scenarios that would lower the U.S. troop level from the current 155,000 to less than 100,000. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States might not need to maintain current troop levels "very much longer."
President Bush continues to insist that American troops will not "stand down" until Iraqi security forces are able to "stand up" against insurgents. The pressure on his administration is to find a way to achieve that goal sooner rather than later.
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